The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


People In Glass Houses Shouldn’t Be Throwing Stones …

One of the things I hated when I lived in China was hearing people slag off the country for all manner of things.

While some of the accusations were true, the reality was China was not the only country that participated in such behaviour but people chose to ignore that.

Not that I’m defending what was going on, because even though I rarely saw any of it – in fact I saw more in the US and UK when I lived there – I knew it was going on.

However there were some claims that showed people didn’t know what the fuck they were going on about.

The amount of people who would come to Shanghai from America and say, “let’s do ideas that force the government to deal with the pollution crisis”.

They’d say it like they were the very first people to identify China had a problem with pollution – which is possibly the greatest sign of arrogance you could have. So we would tell them.

China knows there is a pollution problem.

They are actively fighting it.

They’ve been the biggest investor in green tech for decades.

Proportionally, they still pump out less pollution into the air than America.

In fact, up until the last few years, they pumped out less pollution than America full stop.

America had been doing that for decades.

And there’s parts of London with a higher pollution index than most parts of China.

Then they’d stop acting like they’re a superhero and start understanding their perspective had been driven by media bias not cultural understanding.

But there were some things that were accusations. The lack of respect for copyright being one.

Of course, it’s not just in China this happens, but it definitely happens there. A lot.

Even now, I still think Uncle Martian is peak-plagiarism … mainly because they didn’t just make replicas and sell them as originals, they created a whole new brand based on the intellectual property of brands including Jordan and Under Armour.

I say that because I recently saw another version of this.

Maybe not quite as bad as Uncle Martian, but pretty terrible al the same.

But not from China … so you can keep your prejudiced thoughts to yourself.

It’s that brand at the top of this post that looks awfully like this …

I am an enormous fan of Liquid Death.

I love what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Not only are they the true embodiment of a cult brand – with some amazing cult behaviours, such as their $100,000 country club membership … or buy a slab of Liquid Death – they have made drinking water in public cool for men.

That’s something no other beverage brand has pulled off.

So while I am sure they would think someone ripping them off is a sign they’re doing something right, it’s also a sign some lazy, parasitic pricks are ripping them off.

Though as George once said when we once pitched an idea to a client who said, “but what if we just asked another agency to do your idea for cheaper?”

If you choose to go with someone copying someone else’s idea rather than the people who actually came up and created the idea, then you deserve all the disappointment and confusion you get. Including the lawsuit.



With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies …

Way back in 2007, I wrote a post called, Should Ink Stink?

It was how Mont Blanc had gone into fragrance and I found the whole thing a bit bizarre.

Then in 2008 I wrote about how Ferrari had licensed their name to a bloody memory card … in some very loose nod to how fast the 4gb SD card could save and upload files.

You’d think things couldn’t get worse, but over the years we’ve seen more than a few candidates for the title of ‘what the fuck were they thinking’ but in 2021, we finally got a winner.

To be fair, the brand in question is old, so you could imagine the license owner thought they may as well say yes to anything if it will make them a few extra bob.

But – and it’s a big but – late last year they released a special edition ‘reunion’ of the brand, and the clamor to get access to it from people and press all around the world was immense … which makes the decision to lend their name to this product ‘extension’ even stranger.

What am I talking about?

This.

Yes, that is a Friends manicure set and carry case.

Why???

WHY???

Yes, the cast of Friends were young and beautiful … but I don’t know if anyone in the history of the show ever commented on their nails.

And why a carry case?

How many people use their manicure set so often, they need a case to transport it?

Hell, how many people need a new set of nail scissors and nail file anyway?

Hell, they even had to say ‘The Television Series’ on the package, because they knew no one would naturally associate the TELEVISION COMEDY WITH A MOBILE MANICURE SET.

Does it even have the Friends logo on the actual manicure case?

What if it doesn’t? What is the fucking point of it then?

Actually, what is the point of it whether it’s on or off.

Frankly, if someone pulled out a manicure suitcase I’d already be concerned.

If that suitcase then had the Friends logo on it, I’d be bloody petrified.

How much did this license cost?

How many products did they end up actually selling?

Who was behind this utter insanity?

The only good thing about it is that when I saw this product, I laughed more than I laughed at any episode of the last 2 seasons of the show.

The theme song sings the words, “I’ll be there for you”.

Well, if it means they’re there with a Friends manicure set in its own case, I’d rather you didn’t thank you very much.



A Badge Of Honour. Kinda …

For some reason, I like having badges made for my colleagues.

Or anything a bit daft.

Of course, it started with the stickers I had made when I left Wieden.

600 of the buggers, hidden throughout the office – and buildings of interest – which they’re still finding to this day.

Then there was the packing tape of Jorge and the guy who is in Love Actually – which is a massive compliment even though he thought it was a huge pisstake.

Then there were the Zaid badges, made and bought on a snowy night in Boston.

Then my leaving Deutsch badges.

Followed by the pencils for Mike and Sam.

And the ‘don’t mess with me’ badge for Meg … after watching how disgusted she was at a presentation she had to attend.

Thanks to COVID, apart from the ‘you’re a twat’ sexual harassment badges we had made and sent to men who had made inappropriate comments to women in the workplace, I’ve been nothing but mature.

Until now.

Lizzie is in my team.

She has many qualities.

She’s fiercely smart. An incredibly talented, multi-instrument playing, musician. Community soup maker.

Basically, she is everything I’m not … but there’s one quality that she has that shines above even those bright lights.

She can see a dark side in everything.

I don’t mean in a depressing, mean, nasty way …

Nor do I mean in a hurtful, inconsiderate, selfish way …

I mean that in certain circumstances, she sees the worst case scenario in things.

Of course, she will claim she is simply being a realist – and there is a lot of evidence to suggest she’s right.

For example, when lockdown happened, we were having a bet on when we’d go back to work.

Most said early October, a few early November … but Lizzie swooped in and said,

“We won’t be going back till the new year”.

We laughed at her, until we didn’t and realized she was right.

Again.

Damnit.

Which is why I decided to commemorate her insightfulness with this ….

And while some may say this is not the nicest thing a boss could do for a colleague, I see it a bit differently. To me, I see it as an investment in my team – an investment at the price of my sons inheritance – which means I’m basically boss of the year.

Sadly, that year in 1953.

Happy weekend.



Two Signs The World Was Messed Up Before Covid …

A while back I wrote about how McKinsey advised a client that the best way to boost their sales was to incentivise their distribution network.

That wouldn’t be so bad if the client I was referring to wasn’t the infamous Sackler family – creators of Oxycontin – and the result of this decision wouldn’t be that tens of thousands more people would end up becoming addicted or die from what has been labelled as one of the most deadly over-the-counter drugs ever produced.

But I recently saw something that could be just as evil.

Maybe not so directly dangerous, but messed up all the same.

This …

What the absolute fuck?!

It’s bad enough someone decided to use Paw Patrol to sell some shitty kids drinks … but to then make that drink come in a bottle that has been purposefully packaged to resemble a champagne bottle is just asking for trouble.

How did this get through?

I mean, isn’t this just a modern version of candy cigarettes?

No doubt whoever is behind this horrible use of exploitation and manipulation is being watched with admiring eyes over at McKinsey right now.

But if you think that was bad, there’s worse.

Something that has confused me to the point where it feels my brain may explode.

Sure it doesn’t involve addiction or death – at least not directly.

And sure, it doesn’t revolve around making kids get comfortable with iconography that in later life may have negative affects on their health and wellbeing.

But at the same time, it’s even more messed up than all that.

Something that makes you question that values and tastes of all of humanity.

Here we go …

What the hell?

I mean seriously, what the hell!!!

No doubt Vaynerchuk will now be releasing copious amounts of video footage of him telling artists how they need to follow his ‘system’ to earn ludicrous amounts of cash for their work.

Who would pay this?

Worse, who would pay this for an NFT of his doodle?

And why? Why would anyone think this is a good idea.

Hmmmmmn, unless the person was Vaynerchuk in an act of PR gaining?

Now I’ve said it, you can picture it can’t you.

To assume any other reason is basically an admission we’re in end of days.

So while I apologise for ruining your week from the first day, please remember – I didn’t come up with this crap, I only write it.



Subscribing To Foolishness …

Our industry loves to follow trends.

Storytelling.

Programatic.

Digital transformation.

DTC.

And the current fave – subscription services.

Each one promising better results than what went before – and yet they often leave a trail of destruction in its wake.

Part of this is because some companies do it simply to look like they are not being left behind, regardless of the fact the business situation they are in means it is either inaaprioate or irrelevant. And part of it is because the impact being promised by the agencies and consultancies is more fiction than a career write-up on Linkedin.

Subscription models are just another example in a long line of examples.

We are seeing companies jump on the subscription model as if it’s a guarantee of unbelievable success.

That by simply offering your product or service at a small monthly fee, untold riches will be raining down on you.

It isn’t.

For a start you need a quality product that fulfils a continuous need – real or perceived.

NIKE’s brilliant Adventure Club is a brilliant example of this.

It satisfies a real need with a quality product that makes sense to parents and appeals to kids.

Disney+ is another.

Both of those are examples of companies who know their audience, know their business and know how to offer a service that has real value to their customers emotionally and culturally.

Then there’s companies like Prisma.

Remember them?

They’re the company who was momentarily popular with it’s smartphone photo filtering app.

Well today, they’re trying to charge £65 a year to use their ‘service’.

SIXTY FIVE POUNDS!!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Now I appreciate that works out to be only £1+ a week … people are taking endless amounts of photos each and every day … but while that might all sound a perfect justification for a consultant to sell a subscription service, it fails on so many of the basics.

Their plan shows no understanding of who they are talking to.

Nor any understanding of the actual business they are in.

And don’t get me started on the lack of understanding what problem they’re solving or the lack of evolution their product offers.

It is a perfect example of bandwagon jumping.

A desperate, last-chance-saloon act to try and stay alive.

A business model based on hope rather than actual strategy.

Someone sold them this.

I don’t know if it was someone internally or external, but this one-size-fits all, white label productising approach to business is killing business.

Yes there may be common issues.

Yes there may be common considerations.

But thinking you can just plug and play a solution because it may have worked for someone else is almost criminal.

And yet many companies don’t want to hear truth.

They don’t want to listen to what their real problem is.

They don’t want to accept people only have a limited amount of cash to spend on these things.

Instead, they happily pay exorbitant amounts to outsource their responsibility for a solution that looks like everyone else’s solution.

As with so many of these ‘business approach trends’, the real winners are those who are the most adept at selling the problem rather than the solution. The organisations who ‘package approaches’ that allow the C-Suite to feel they’re doing something, even though they have been designed to substantially drive the ‘sellers’ growth. ‘Approaches’ that will be sold almost identically to the next client, regardless of their industry or situation.

And the market thinks this is a good thing.

Selling bandaids at ridiculously high prices.

And while PRISMA may have had no other option left to them than to jump on the subscription model bandwagon, you can almost guarantee this approach won’t work for them … because their problem isn’t really price, their problem is they’re not a business.